Publisher: Alonquin Books
Author: B. A. Shapiro
Released: October 16th 2018
The Collector’s Apprentice is the latest novel by B. A. Shapiro. Like her other novels, this one focuses mostly on the art world. Unlike the other novels, this one is mostly about art collectors as opposed to artists. It’s a refreshing change, and honestly provided for a new perspective and take on the storytelling styles Shapiro prefers.
This novel could be accurately described as an art history thriller – something that I didn’t know existed before now. It blends fact and fiction seamlessly, so much so that I felt compelled to look up a moment or two in order to figure out how much of it was based on a true story.
This novel does lean a bit more towards the thriller edge than Shapiro’s previous works. Though it still does include a veritable ton of commentary on art and the artists creating it. It also is based more in history, and thus plays around a little bit with some real-life people who were involved in the art world at that time. In that sense that makes the novel a historical fiction piece, as much as anything else.
The Collector’s Apprentice wasn’t what I was expecting, but in many ways, I truly did enjoy this read. It had so many elements that I loved in The Art Forger and The Muralist, all while being an entity entirely of its own making. I respect that the novel was so different from its brethren, and have to give Shapiro credit for experimenting a little bit here.
There was a lot going on in this novel. There’s unrequited love, twisted romance, conmen doing what they do best, estranged families, art collecting, art study and research, murder, foul play, the works. It made for a breathtaking read.
And all the while Shapiro manages to squeeze in dozens of art history facts. I loved those moments in particular, for obvious reasons. It’s something I’ve come to expect from her writing, so I’m happy that she didn’t let me down here.
The novel is certainly more of a thriller than the others before it, and it focuses a bit more on the drama. At least, it felt that way. There was a lot of human nature getting in the way of the art in this novel, but in a very real sense that is what humanity has always been best at, so it makes sense.
There were times where the historical fiction elements touched a bit too close to real people for my liking – but that’s just my personal preference and bias showing I suppose. I imagine others might enjoy those parts regardless, so take that with a grain of salt.
The characters were interesting, as was the plot itself. Shapiro did a brilliant job of painting layer upon layer of deception and intent in this novel. All of their characters introduced had their own ambitions and goals, as well as their own way of achieving them. All of this going at once helped keep the pace moving forward steadily.
I’ll confess that I’m more than a little bit curious to see what the next novel from Shapiro will entail. Will it go back to the more artistic roots, or will it be a thriller? Will it be something else completely? Or will it be a blend of a few different elements again? Regardless of what it’ll end up being, I have to say that I’m going to be curious enough to be reading it.